Someone shared this cartoon with me recently and it really got me thinking about privilege. To me, the word privilege was synonyms with being blessed, but after seeing the cartoon I was confused. Robert by definition is privileged, but the cartoon seems to show more than privilege, but the negative mindsets it can create. In my curiosity, I started reading up on the subject. What I found intrigued me and I wanted to share my thoughts.
Our privilege, or lack of it, we have very little control over. We are either born into privilege or we are not based on our societies projections. In America, if you are born white, male and wealthy you have the ultimate privilege (Robert). This doesn’t mean that people cannot overcome lacking privilege, but I think we need to acknowledge that it does exist in our collective perception. I’m not sure of the exact hierarchy of privilege in this country, but I’d also venture to say that just being born in America makes us all privileged, if you were to look at it from a worldview.
So if having privilege is something we cannot control, we should not feel guilty if we are born into it. We should be grateful for our privilege and humbly use it to help those who may not have had the same starting place. I've heard the CEO of Priceline.com, Jeff Hoffman, say, "There’s no shame in making money. There is only shame in not using it to help others." If you were not born into privilege, you also had not control over it. You do, however, have control over your individual mindset. As the author of The Miracle Morning, Hal Elrod, says, "The moment you take responsibility for everything in your life is the moment you can change anything in your life."
I’ve been reading The Me, Me, Me Epidemic by Amy McCready and she talks about the entitlement issue we have created in America. We live in a time of instant gratification. Our kids no longer have to wait a week for their favorite TV show to play a new episode; they have instant access with Netflix. We live in a time where information is coming from every direction, but wisdom is hard to find. A time where there is a fast food restaurant in every shopping center and adult planned activities for children from sun-up to sun-down (where kids get a trophy just for showing up). Our culture has created a generation that feels entitled to A’s when they do C work, entitled to 24/7 access to their electronics and who think they deserve more than they are willing to work for. However, I don’t think privilege or money is the enemy, as Ryan Holiday suggests, Ego is the Enemy. He says, "If ego is the voice that tells us we're better than we really are, we can say ego inhibits true success by preventing a direct and honest connection to the world around us." The first step is to recognize our privilege to prevent it from feeding our ego-mind. As Uncle Ben tells Peter Parker, "With great power comes great responsibility."
Our culture is teaching our children to be entitled. We call our little girls princesses and our young men have little accountability as we brush off their bad behavior to a “boys will be boys” mentality. As parents, we are tired and stressed so we give in to our young people’s demands. We allow our children to run the household. I’m guilty of this too and there is a solution! In The Me, Me, Me, Epidemic, Amy’s non-negotiable tool is to spend 10 minutes EVERY DAY with each child one-on-one doing an activity of their choosing. She calls this Mind, Body and Soul time. Just as a daily meditation practice can have lasting positive benefits, a time to check-in with each child and make them the center of attention for a short time is enough to fulfill their need of belonging and will vastly improve your connection.
You can make a piece of their Miracle Morning CHARMS their Mind, Body and Soul time. For creativity, let them choose the activity and do it with them. Break out The Miracle Morning Art of Affirmations: A Positive Coloring Book for Adults and Kids and color side-by-side and ask them about their dreams or to tell you a story. Help your son build a new Lego creation and ask him, "What are you grateful for?" Put on some happy music and have a full out dance party for 10 minutes if that’s what they like to do. Head outside and have a catch or kick around the soccer ball for 10 minutes. You’ll be surprised how much a child, even a teen, will open up when their body is involved with something else (i.e. kicking a ball).
Another way to combat entitlement in ourselves and in our children is to have a heart of service. In Ego is the Enemy, Ryan says, "Imagine if for every person you met, you thought of some way to help them, something you could do for them? And you looked at it in a way that entirely benefited them and not you. The cumulative effect this would have over time would be profound: You'd develop a reputation for being indispensable. You'd have countless new relationships. You'd have an enormous bank of favors to call upon down the road. That's what the canvas strategy is about- helping yourself by helping others." Each person you meet, approach them with love. When we can release hate and the ego fears we hold in our minds, that is when we can experience true peace.
It is up to each of us as individuals to do the inside work to heal our egos, privilege or not. Someone else cannot do it for you. In the cartoon, Robert and Paula both need ego-healing. Paula has been conditioned by her environment to believe that life is a struggle and her ego fears are holding her back from her full potential. She needs a shift in perception. She could also use a mentor to help give her the guidance she needs to change her situation. Humans are social beings and we rarely succeed alone. A great place for Paula to start would be a daily gratitude practice and to start reading about others in her situation who have overcome the obstacles she's facing. Robert too needs a shift in perception. He has been conditioned by his environment to believe he is more deserving than others (entitled) and is disillusioned that his life is only a product of his "hard work." Robert would also benefit greatly from a daily gratitude practice. Gratitude works universally. As Oprah writes in What I Know for Sure, "Gratitude can transform any situation. It alters your vibration moving you from negative energy to positive."
In his book, The Entitlement Cure, John Townsend suggests we change our wording from, “I deserve this” to “I am responsible to get this.” All people are worthy of living the life of their dreams, and we are responsible to create that life for ourselves. As Marianne Williamson famously said in A Course in Miracles, "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated for our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."
At the 1Life Fully Lived West Coast Conference this year, I met a man named Will Little. As an African American, with no father-figure living in crime and poverty stricken South Philly, he was not born into privilege. As I listened to the story of his life I felt so many different emotions. First, I was angry that his father left his mother, sisters and him to fend for themselves. Then I was disappointed that his school failed to get through to him and he dropped out. I was scared when he turned to the thug life- gangs, drugs and guns. My heart broke when he was involved in a gang fight that ended with a young man dead from Will's bullet. I felt sorrow when he was sentenced to 10 years in prison. It wasn't fair that a 19 year-old young man was conditioned by his environment to become a criminal.
Then his story turns. Will took full responsibility for his actions and spent his time in prison educating himself and becoming better instead of bitter. He read whatever he could get his hands on. In What I Know for Sure, Oprah says, "Books, for me, used to be a way to escape. I now consider reading a good book a sacred indulgence, a chance to be any place I choose. It is my absolute favorite way to spend time. What I know for sure is that reading opens you up. It exposes you and gives you access to anything your mind can hold. What I love most about reading: It gives you the ability to reach higher ground. And keep climbing."
He went to prison as a misguided boy and by the time he was released, became a man on a mission. He wants to make sure today's youth doesn't make the same mistakes he did. He and the brother of the man he killed (who has forgiven and befriended Will), go around to schools to share their story of hope and forgiveness. Will shares wonderful emotionally-charging poems to inspire the next generation to hold peace in their hearts and not hate. The founder of 1Life Fully Lived, Tim Rhode, has been trying for years to get in front of inner city kids, but they wouldn't listen to an "old white dude from the sticks." Will has been the ticket in the door to a whole new demographic. Why? Because they can relate to him. They trust him because he understands them. Tim and I cannot begin to understand these young people. We have not lived in their neighborhoods, we have not shared their same struggles, but Will has. With his help the 1Life Fully Lived message to dream, plan and live your best life will gratefully fall on the people who most need to hear it.
I believe, as Maya Angelou wrote in her beautiful poem, Human Family, "I note the obvious differences between each sort and type, but we are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike." We each have our own unique gifts and if we would focus on sharing them, our world would change. If we accepted that we are more alike than we are different, our world would change. I support my brother Will in his work, I support my brother Tim in his work and I will do my own work in my circle of influence. Today let's shine our individual lights. Let's put fear aside. Let's release judgement. Let's open our hearts and allow service to be our highest priority. And may Robert and Paula find peace :)
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